Glimpse history through old images of Tynemouth, in North East England.
Swimming Gala 1901
The famous Mitchell and Kenyon film archive includes 1901 footage of the Tynemouth Swimming Gala at the Haven. It’s worth watching to enjoy the costumes and moustaches alone!
Men swim in top hats, get quickly dressed into full outfits and hold open umbrellas ready for the next round of swimming, all watched on by bonneted ladies and their families sitting in nearby boats and crowds of people on the clifftop. Mr E. Miller, from North Shields, was the winner, and Mr R. Sopwith came second.
Next, divers jump from a platform designed by James Linkletter of Newcastle upon Tyne, which is fitted into a tall wooden ladder. The audience watches from the pier, which is still there today.
Tynemouth Swimming Gala in Haven, North Shields (1901) – BFI on YouTube
Bathing Pool 1927
A home cine film was recorded as storms battered the coast in 1927. It shows waves crashing over the barrier into Tynemouth’s outdoor bathing pool, which had been built just two years before.
31b Wreck Cullercoats Storm Bathing Pool Tynemouth 1927 – P D on YouTube
Bathing Pool 1967
Filmed in 1967 by Frank and Norah Wardle of Winlaton, this coliur home movie shows Tynemouth’s outdoor swimming pool busy with families enjoying the sunshine and water. There was plenty of seating for adults who didn’t want to go in the cold water, a building with changing rooms, and a pretty fountain.
Then the film moves to a fish shack selling kippers, winkles, and mussels, before a final photo of the derelict bathing pool on 5th November 2006.
Tynemouth Beach swimming pool uk 1967 updated – Frank Gillings on YouTube
Recorded in the mid 1980s, this home video opens at the Grand Hotel, showing diners, staff, various interiors, then views from the car park.
Next there’s a drive along the coast road, with a stop to look at the Priory and surrounding sights, and on to the lake and then the Park Hotel. Each of these scenes shows lots of buildings, people, and cars.
Tynemouth – Mid 1980s – Newcastle Upon Tyne & UK – Video from the past on YouTube
“A descriptive and historical guide to Tynemouth, with notices of North Shields, Seaton Delaval, and neighbouring antiquities” by William Sidney Gibson.
Pages 136 – 143
THE TOWN OF TYNEMOUTH
Is no longer a village inhabited by tenants in husbandry ,
by workers in various handicraft trades , and by humble
villagers , clustering under the defence of the Prior’s Castle ,
and obtaining a livelihood in dependence upon the great
ecclesiastical fraternity who were once its lords .
The prior , however faithfully and humbly he may have
followed the rule of holy Benedict , was to the dwellers on
his demesne not only an ecclesiastical father , a feudal supe
rior , and dispenser of justice ; but was the head of an estab
lishment which , however spiritually – minded the monks may
have been , gave employment to vast numbers of people ,
and maintained a considerable body of functionaries , serv
ing men and dependents – the satellites of the monastic
Many towns of England , which have long been opulent
and important , owe their rise to monastic communities ;
to the trade which they fostered , the establishments
which they maintained , and the resort to them of travellers
and merchants . In the halls of his Convent , the prior’s
courts were periodically held ; in his guest – house he enter
tained great numbers of persons who were often of the
highest rank , and were attended by a considerable retinue .
To the exchequer and the granaries of his Convent no small
portion of the produce of a vast district was brought ; and
from thence it was dispensed in hospitality to princes , eccle
siastics , and noblemen – in architectural and other works
which gave employment to numerous artizans in the pur
chase of merchandize and manufactures that were brought
thither from distant localities – and in daily charity to the
poor , who found succour at the Convent – gates .
So early as the reign of Edward I. a town or vill had
thus sprung up at Tynemouth ; and upon its green stood a
cross , round which the tenants of its thatched cottages
were wont to assemble . From the steps of that cross , in
days when newspapers were unknown , the art of printing
undiscovered , and few if any persons except those of the
religious orders could read — the death of the Sovereign ,
the accession of a new monarch , the triumph of the English
arms , the acts of parliament , and other matters affecting
the King’s lieges were announced to the listening rustics
and tenants of Tynemouth – shire , or at least of the vil
lage and its neighbourhood .
The prior , as the reader will recollect , sought to raise
Tynemouth to the importance of a market town , and for a
brief period he held fair and market there ; and on his
neighbouring quays claimed the privilege of free port in
the Tyne . Greatly would the gay and fashionable visitors
to Tynemouth in the present day be astonished , could they
behold the motley groups who were brought together on
these occasions , the costume of the itinerant traders who
resorted there , and the articles of commerce which found
We cannot doubt that , as long as the Priory existed , the
vill of Tynemouth flourished , though its then humble dwel
lers dreamed not of parliamentary representation , nor of
municipal privileges . But from the time when the great
monastic establishment was suppressed , the village of Tyne
mouth , and even the prior’s adjacent town of North Shields ,
fell into obscurity ; and none could have supposed , even so
lately as the close of the seventeenth century , that its de
serted hostelries and hearths would be succeeded by well
built houses , and become the site of a populous town , annually
the resort of hundreds who come to seek health and enjoy
marine recreation , or to visit the interesting and venerable
ruins of the once – magnificent Priory Church .
The parish of Tynemouth comprises the whole of the
populous town and suburbs of North Shields , from which it
is not far distant . Tynemouth was constituted a borough
by the act 2 William IV . c . 45 , and returns one member to
parliament ; and at the present time a large number of the
inhabitants seek the grant of municipal dignity to this
borough , and the enfranchisement of the shipping which
floats in its harbour from the jurisdiction and the demands
of the corporation of Newcastle .
The railway from that antient town has now been extended
to Tynemouth , which is thus brought within thirty minutes ‘
journey from that great and populous mart of commercial
industry and enterprize .
The principal object of interest after the ruins of the
Priory and the Castle , is the Lighthouse – a lofty structure
on the north side of the ground which was formerly the
Priory garden . This important building was first erected
by Colonel Villiers , governor of the Castle , late in the seven
teenth century ; in 1775 his smaller structure gave place to
the present enlarged and substantial lighthouse .
The fixed light formerly exhibited at Tynemouth was su
perseded , some years ago , by a light which revolves upon the
ingenious principle invented by the late Mr. Adam Walker ,
who was well known as the philosopher . It consists of an
upright shaft which , by a curious arrangement of machinery
moved by a kind of clock – work , revolves upon its axis in a
given time , thus presenting the light periodically , and
causing its brilliance to alternate with intervals of dark
ness . Twenty – one parabolic reflectors made of copper ,
plated , in the focus of each of which an argand burner is
fixed , are arranged on three frames , seven of these reflectors
being placed in a pyramidal form on each frame . The
cones of light thus produced are of remarkable brilliance ,
and from that quality and the great height of the lantern ,
which is upwards of 160 feet from the beach , the light is
visible at an extraordinary distance ; while its appearance
at regular intervals ( which are more distinctly marked at sea
than to a spectator on the land , ) enables the mariner to
identify the light observed .
This important lighthouse , which in its construction re
sembles a tower , so strong is its fabric and so commodious
are its arrangements , was acquired some years ago by the
corporation of the Trinity House in London , and is found
amazingly productive .
The first light that was ever exhibited in Great Britain on
Mr. Walker’s plan , was erected by him about 1791 in a
lighthouse under the control of that corporation , situate
on St. Mary’s Isle , one of the rocky and dangerous
Seilly group , off ” the Land’s End ; ” apropos of which
lighthouse it may be mentioned , that within its walls the
present obliging and intelligent keeper of the lighthouse at
Tynemouth was born .
The reflection of the rays from an arrangement of polished
surfaces formed in the figure of the parabolic curve , and the
application of the rotatory principle to lights on the sea
coast , were found to be improvements so great that the re
volving light soon came to be adopted on other stations
without number ; but enormous as is the revenue produced
by the light – dues in respect of the stations where the revolv
ing light has been adopted , and great as is its value to the
royal navy and to the mercantile marine , it is worthy to be
repeated here that neither the inventor in his life – time
received , nor have any of his descendants received , the
smallest reward for the completion and dedication to the
public of this most important and distinctive light .
As a bathing – place , Tynemouth possesses many advan
tages . The Haven , in which neat and commodious baths
have been established , has a sheltered and pleasant beach ,
around which the cliffs rise in the form of an amphitheatre ,
the area thus formed being perhaps 200 yards in width .
Numerous covered boats duly manned and bathing – machines
duly womaned , await the visitors who prefer to plunge and
sport in the invigorating tide which rolls from the wide
ocean into this sheltered little bay ; while within the quad
rangle of the Bath – house , every comfort is afforded to those
who desire inclosed cold baths , shower – baths , or warm
baths – a luxury from which the good monks of Tynemouth
would doubtless have recoiled . All these baths are sup
plied from the fresh salt sea , which is raised to the Bath
house by a steam – engine . Invalids may descend to the
Bath – house or the beach in a carriage . The charges for
bathing are remarkably moderate , and the managers civil ,
attentive , and obliging .
On the promontory between this Haven ( which is called
Prior’s Haven ) and the mouth of the Tyne , is a small bat
tery called the Spanish Battery , which has succeeded to
one that was formed there in the reign of Queen Elizabeth .
In it several guns can be mounted , and within the works
there is a gunner’s residence .
An antient sea – wall or rampart extended westward from
this point along a part of the cliffs which stretch towards
the town of North Shields , and are lofty throughout their
range . This rampart gave strength to the defences of the
Priory and Castle towards the river , and aided to insulate
and defend its buildings from the approach of foes .
Upon a level spot , on the surface of these cliffs , and ad
jacent to the point of land on which the Spanish Battery
stands , a fine statue of Admiral Lord Collingwood – one of
the most distinguished Worthies of Northumberland – has
been very recently erected . It is unfortunately mounted
upon a mean pedestal rising from a platform , which plat
form and pedestal are very unworthy of their commanding
situation , and of those feelings towards the memory of this
naval hero which are honourable to his native county .
The locality is such that to give this memorial grandeur of
effect , a much larger mass , and a design very different from
that of an exaggerated desk paper – weight , were required .
Between the Collingwood Memorial , and the chief street
of Tynemouth , the old fish – ponds of the Convent , and
trenches of the fortress extend .
The advantages of Tynemouth as a marine residence
having been made cheaply and speedily accessible from all
parts of the country , by the extension of a branch of the
York , Newcastle , and Berwick Railway , to the very town
of Tynemouth , it is not surprising that it should be a
favourite place of resort for families residing in the neigh
bourhood ; and even for visitors of distinction from places re
mote . Near the entrance of the town , some excellent houses
have been newly built ; but the fine situation of Tynemouth , its
advantages as a bathing – place , and the convenience with
which provisions are obtained , not to mention the peculiar
interest given to the spot by the ruins of the time – honoured
Priory , and the historical associations which cluster around
them seem to deserve more spirited and extensive pro
vision for the improvement of the town .
A fine terrace might be advantageously raised on the
sea – cliff northward of the town ; smooth walks might be
provided ; and a library , reading – room , and bazaar , with
some of the amusements usual in those establishments at
other watering – places , would not fail to be most acceptable
and attractive , and to relieve the monotony , which in dull
weather especially , is felt at Tynemouth .
We should not omit to mention the fine sands that stretch
between Tynemouth and Cullercotes – a fishing village , but
much – frequented bathing – place , about a mile to the north
of Tynemouth , -and also between Cullercotes and the
head – land north of Whitley , and stretching towards Hart
ley . This sandy beach is broad , firm , and highly pictu
resque , more especially in the neighbourhood of Whitley :
where , though the cliffs have not majestic height , the sand
stone is worn by the waves into forms of pleasing wildness .
In this vicinity , we may observe a well – known proof of the
antient convulsions of the globe , in the ” main , ” or ” great , “
or ” ninety – fathom dyke , ” which from this place traverses the
coal – strata in a nearly vertical position in the general direc
tion of north – north – east and south – south – west , passing pro
bably into the formation underlying the coal – measures .
And in this vicinity , there are other phenomena not unin
teresting to the geologist . The lower beds of the newer
magnesian , or conglomerate limestone here , contain bivalves
and entrochi , and alternate with shale , or slate – clay , on
which substance one part of the bed rests ; another rests
upon one of the sandstones of the coal series . The lime
stone which here overlies both the coal strata and the
ninety – fathom dyke , is in this place at the northern extre
mity of its western boundary . It is remarkable that al
though the dyke has traversed the coal , the limestone is
not affected by it .
In the rocks northward of Tynemouth , there is a fine
mineral ( chalybeate ) spring , which deservedly possesses
great repute , and perhaps in antient days had the reputa
tion of sanctity . The road to this spring is on a gentle
incline , and the sands below may likewise be reached with
out fatigue , and if the road were improved , by vehicles
The fine spacious beach or long sand between Tynemouth
and Cullercotes is commanded by a battery for two guns ,
which was formed during the alarm of invasion by the
Below this battery the beach invites persons to bathe ;
but there is a dangerous sweep of the sea during ebb – tide .
On the beach , a short distance from Tynemouth , and
between the sheltered haven called Percy Bay and the
next projecting cliffs to the north on the ridge of which
the battery is formed , the rocks are bold and exceed
ingly varied . From this beach , looking southward , the
broad ocean stretching far beyond the range of vision , diver
sified in the distance by the many vessels upon its ever
heaving surface ; its long – swept waves rolling in , crested with
sparkling foam , curling and breaking with a wild though
monotonous sound upon the wide rocky shore ; the bold
precipitous cliff on which the Monastery and Castle stood ;
the dignified and touching ruins of the Church ; the ram
parts of the garrison ; and the lofty light – house on the
edge of the promontory – all combine to form a picturesque
and most interesting scene soothing and suggestive – as
well when the waves are tranquil , and nature , gilded by
the mighty orb of day , ” in yellow lustre ” shines – as
when all is reposing in more romantic beauty in the silvery
lunar beams . But when the profound and terrible expanse
of ocean is agitated and blackened by the sweeping storm ,
and the sea – spray is carried over the lofty cliffs at whose
base the impetuous breakers roar , the scene is full of im
pressive grandeur .